Judge adjourns Rotherham sex abuse slander case to assess damages to be paid to Labour MPs

Ms Collins did not attend court todaywhen Gavin Millar QC said the allegations were the "talk of the tearoom" in Parliament in the run-up to the general election and caused "extreme distress".
Ms Collins did not attend court todaywhen Gavin Millar QC said the allegations were the "talk of the tearoom" in Parliament in the run-up to the general election and caused "extreme distress".
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A judge has adjourned a case to decide the amount of damages to be paid to Rotherham's three Labour MPs by a Ukip MEP over remarks she made about the town's child abuse scandal.

Mr Justice Warby adjourned the long-running litigation at London's High Court once more to a later date when he will rule on the compensation due to Sir Kevin Barron, MP for Rother Valley, John Healey, who represents Wentworth and Dearne, and Sarah Champion, MP for Rotherham.

The three South Yorkshire MPs sued Jane Collins, who represents Yorkshire and North Lincolnshire, for libel over a speech she gave at Ukip's conference in September 2014 - a month after a report found about 1,400 children in the area had been abused between 1997 and 2013.

Ms Collins did not attend court today when Gavin Millar QC said the allegations were the "talk of the tearoom" in Parliament in the run-up to the general election and caused "extreme distress".

"The impact of the allegations on the claimants was extremely grave. They could not have been more serious for elected politicians serving constituencies in Rotherham...

"They caused immense damage and made the whole election extremely stressful for each of the claimants.

"It led to the claimants being repeatedly targeted on social media and having to appoint organisers to assist them with the campaign."

In 2015, the judge made findings on meaning - after which Ms Collins made an offer of amends which was accepted.

He said her words meant, as an allegation of fact, that each of the MPs knew many of the details of the exploitation yet deliberately chose not to intervene but allowed it to continue.

They also meant, as expressions of opinion, that they acted in this way for motives of political correctness, political cowardice or political selfishness and that they were guilty of misconduct so grave that it was or should be criminal, as it aided the perpetrators and made the MPs just as culpable.

Ms Collins argued it was a political speech which did not contain any allegation of fact, but expressed an opinion to the effect that the MPs were likely to have known that sexual exploitation was a serious problem in the area.

The amount of compensation could not be agreed so the case has returned to court for the assessment of damages - which the MPs say should be around £150,000 each

Mr Millar said the allegations were not published by Ms Collins as a result of a slip of the tongue or a mistake.

Her speech was pre-written and cleared by Ukip prior to publication.

"It was a deliberate and calculated attack," said counsel.

Sir Kevin said he was called a "bloody paedophile" by a man when he was out leafleting and felt he was a "sitting duck".

Mr Healey's relationship with his constituents was damaged and his 19-year-old son was also targeted when he was delivering leaflets.

Ms Champion said the abusive tweets came though to her mobile so fast that she did not have time to block people and the cascade of really aggressive tweets had not stopped.

She had difficulty sleeping and her stress levels had gone "through the roof".

Ms Collins refused to withdraw her allegations throughout the whole of the campaign and did not make her offer of amends until two weeks after the election.

She had not made any apology and her conduct in delaying the proceedings and seeking to avoid the damages hearing were yet more seriously aggravating features, said Mr Millar.

She had "sought, time and time again, to avoid and delay the progress of this case by every conceivable means available to her".